Home Office sets up inquiry into riot at jail

A SENIOR Prison Service official is to investigate a Boxing Day riot at the Reading Remand Centre, Berkshire, the Home Office said last night.

Gary Dadds, a former manager of the service's London North region, who begins work today, is expected to inquire into whether there were sufficient officers on duty when the trouble erupted.

According to one report, reduced Christmas staffing levels meant there were just 12 prison officers to control 128 prisoners and officers on the affected wing were outnumbered by 10 to 1.

Meanwhile, the centre's governor said yesterday that he could find no reason for the disturbances. Paul Dixon will report to Mr Dadds, who in turn will report to the Home Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, on the damage done to the centre, which holds male remand prisoners aged 16-21. They will also investigate the circumstances in which the rioting broke out. But in the immediate aftermath of the riot, Mr Dixon was unable to identify any single flashpoint. He said on BBC Radio: 'We are disappointed. We were trying to provide the best regime we could for the lads under the circumstances and they went on the rampage.'

The centre denied reports that the prisoners were protesting over television viewing times, although there are two television sets in the recreation area where the riot started. However, penal reform groups said the rioting could have been prevented if the inmates had been treated more reasonably.

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: 'The conditions at Reading are not ideal for remand prisoners and anyway these boys shouldn't be taken away from their families and locked up, especially at Christmas. It is damaging to these people and it's a totally pointless experience for them.' She said 70 per cent of those on remand at Reading would not get a prison sentence and they knew this. 'Of course they get resentful, angry and bitter. I don't condone their violence but I can understand it.'

The disturbances started at 7.15pm on Saturday, when 48 prisoners refused to return to their cells after a recreation period. They overpowered a prison officer in the recreation room and took away his keys. During the next three hours, other officers were injured and keys stolen as inmates rampaged through a wing of the remand centre and a part of the grounds. They lit fires in the kitchen and the gym, and caused widespread damage to the activities centre, education block, and computer room.

At one stage, four prisoners seized a van and tried to break out by ramming a security gate. Police had parked a fire engine across the gate in case it gave way.

The riot ended when a large number of officers stormed the wing and overpowered the prisoners who were causing the disturbance. Up to 150 officers from the centre and 11 other prison service establishments across the South were involved in the operation.

One inmate was treated at the centre for cuts and bruises, and another was taken to hospital suffering from a suspected drug overdose taken during the riot. Earlier, three prison officers had been taken to hospital with injuries suffered when the riot began.

Eight prisoners were last night maintaining a Christmas hunger strike to protest over what they claim are wrongful convictions. The men, at the top security Long Lartin Prison near Evesham, in Hereford and Worcester, were continuing to refuse meals after three days without food.

More than 30 inmates at jails throughout the country, including 25 at Long Lartin, joined the protest which was due to end at midnight on Boxing Day.

Leading article, letters, page 12

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable